Autumn is here and aside from crisper weather, apples, and leaves changing, it also means fall beer! Seasonal fall beers typically include pumpkin beers, fresh hop pale ales, and Oktoberfest style ales. While each of these beers is great by itself after raking some leaves, why not pair them with cheeses that compliment their unique seasonal flavors.
Pumpkin ales have become more popular over the years (like everything else pumpkin-flavored, come fall). With their growth/popularity has come great flavor variety. However, a typical pumpkin ale will have slight to strong flavors of pumpkin and whatever unique spices the brewer chooses to incorporate — most commonly cinnamon and nutmeg. These sweet and spicy notes can be paired well with any salty blue-style cheese. Pumpkin ales are strong and sweet enough to balance even the strongest blue cheese. Blues can sometimes be difficult to pair, but pumpkin ale is up to the delicious challenge.
Fresh hop pale ales are made from hops that are not dried before they are used. The result is a beer rich in color and flavor, with a grassy, hoppy taste. The popularity of this beer style has also grown over the years within the ‘hophead’ community. Fresh hop pale ales pair wonderfully with soft-ripened cheeses such as Camembert and Brie styles. The creamy, earthy, buttery flavors pair well with the bitter hoppiness and earthiness of this beer style. Both the beer’s and cheese’s intense flavors balance each other perfectly.
Perhaps the best-known fall style of beer is Oktoberfest. Oktoberfest ales are strong in alcohol and flavor. They tend to be darker in color with a malty sweet flavor. An Oktoberfest can be paired with any cheese that matches its intensity. Aged semi-hard cheeses pair well, and so can aged cheddars. Both styles have the strong aroma and flavor to stand up to the intensity of an Oktoberfest.
Like anything, you won’t know what you like until you try it. Go to your favorite local brewery and cheese shop and experiment! What could possibly go wrong?